March 5, 2012
[FACT comments: 400 pages with lèse majesté content but govt blocks 820,756 URLs as of February 29. What dereliction of duty!]
NACC asked to probe PM, ICT minister
Bangkok Post: March 5, 2012
A petition was filed with the National Anti-Corruption Commission on MOnday, asking it to investigate Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and Information and Communications Technology Minister Anudit Nakornthap for alleged negligence by failing to close down lese majeste websites.
The petitioner, Mallika Boonmeetrakul, deputy spokeswoman of the Democrat Party, also gave the NACC a list of websites alleged to have run content deemed to offensive to the monarchy.
Ms Mallika said she had submnitted a petition seeking action in this matter to the prime minister and the ICT minister about two months ago, but no action had been taken. Their negligence was a violation of Article 157 of the Criminal Code, she said.
As a result, the number of websites with lese majeste content had since increased from 203 to more than 400, she said.
Witthaya Akompithak, deputy secretary-general of the NACC, said the petition had been taken for consideration. The NACC would have to decide if it fell within
March 5, 2012
[FACT comments: There’s a method for opying out of intrusive personal data mining and it doesn’t involve govt watchdogs, ISP complaints or corporate begging. Ghostery—free, multi-browser and can block all tracking: http://www.ghostery.com/.]
I’m Being Followed: How Google—and 104 Other Companies—Are Tracking Me on the Web
Who are these companies and what do they want from me? A voyage into the invisible business that funds the web.
The Atlantic: February 29, 2012
This morning, if you opened your browser and went to NYTimes.com, an amazing thing happened in the milliseconds between your click and when the news about North Korea and James Murdoch appeared on your screen. Data from this single visit was sent to 10 different companies, including Microsoft and Google subsidiaries, a gaggle of traffic-logging sites, and other, smaller ad firms. Nearly instantaneously, these companies can log your visit, place ads tailored for your eyes specifically, and add to the ever-growing online file about you.
There’s nothing necessarily sinister about this subterranean data exchange: this is, after all, the advertising ecosystem that supports free online content. All the data lets advertisers tune their ads, and the rest of the information logging lets them measure how well things are actually working. And I do not mean to pick on The New York Times. While visiting the Huffington Post or The Atlantic or Business Insider, the same process happens to a greater or lesser degree. Every move you make on the Internet is worth some tiny amount to someone, and a panoply of companies want to make sure that no step along your Internet journey goes unmonetized.
Even if you’re generally familiar with the idea of data collection for targeted advertising, the number and variety of these data collectors will probably astonish you. Allow me to introduce the list of companies that tracked my movements on the Internet in one recent 36-hour period of standard web surfing: Acerno. Adara Media. Adblade. Adbrite. ADC Onion. Adchemy. ADiFY. AdMeld. Adtech. Aggregate Knowledge. AlmondNet. Aperture. AppNexus. Atlas. Audience Science.
And that’s just the As. My complete list includes 105 companies, and there are dozens more than that in existence. You, too, could compile your own list using Mozilla’s tool, Collusion, which records the companies that are capturing data about you, or more precisely, your digital self.
While the big names — Google, Microsoft, Facebook, Yahoo, etc. — show up in this catalog, the bulk of it is composed of smaller data and advertising businesses that form a shadow web of companies that want to help show you advertising that you’re more likely to click on and products that you’re more likely to purchase.
To be clear, these companies gather data without attaching it to your name; they use that data to show you ads you’re statistically more likely to click. That’s the game, and there is substantial money in it.
As users, we move through our Internet experiences unaware of the churning subterranean machines powering our web pages with their cookies and pixels trackers, their tracking code and databases. We shop for wedding caterers and suddenly see ring ads appear on random web pages we’re visiting. We sometimes think the ads following us around the Internet are “creepy.” We sometimes feel watched. Does it matter? We don’t really know what to think.
The issues the industry raises did not exist when Ronald Reagan was president and were only in nascent form when the Twin Towers fell. These are phenomena of our time and while there are many antecedent forms of advertising, never before in the history of human existence has so much data been gathered about so many people for the sole purpose of selling them ads.
“The best minds of my generation are thinking about how to make people click ads,” my old friend and early Facebook employee Jeff Hammerbacher once said. “That sucks,” he added. But increasingly I think these issues — how we move “freely” online, or more properly, how we pay one way or another — are actually the leading edge of a much bigger discussion about the relationship between our digital and physical selves. I don’t mean theoretically or psychologically. I mean that the norms established to improve how often people click ads may end up determining who you are when viewed by a bank or a romantic partner or a retailer who sells shoes.
Already, the web sites you visit reshape themselves before you like a carnivorous school of fish, and this is only the beginning. Right now, a huge chunk of what you’ve ever looked at on the Internet is sitting in databases all across the world. The line separating all that it might say about you, good or bad, is as thin as the letters of your name. If and when that wall breaks down, the numbers may overwhelm the name. The unconsciously created profile may mean more than the examined self I’ve sought to build.
Most privacy debates have been couched in technical. We read about how Google bypassed Safari’s privacy settings, whatever those were. Or we read the details about how Facebook tracks you with those friendly Like buttons. Behind the details, however, are a tangle of philosophical issues that are at the heart of the struggle between privacy advocates and online advertising companies: What is anonymity? What is identity? How similar are humans and machines? This essay is an attempt to think through those questions.
The bad news is that people haven’t taken control of the data that’s being collected and traded about them. The good news is that — in a quite literal sense — simply thinking differently about this advertising business can change the way that it works. After all, if you take these companies at their word, they exist to serve users as much as to serve their clients.
Before we get too deep, let’s talk about the reality of the online display advertising industry. (That means, essentially, all the ads not associated with a web search.) There are a dizzying array of companies and services who can all make a buck by helping advertisers target you a teensy, weensy bit better than the next guy. These are companies that must prove themselves quite narrowly in measurable revenue and profit; the competition is fierce, the prize is large, and the strategies are ever-changing. Here’s the coral-reef level diversity of corporate life in display advertising, as cataloged by Luma Partners a little over a year ago:
Don’t get too caught up in all of that, though. There are three basic categories: Essentially, there are people who help the buyers (on the left), people who help the sellers (on the right), and a whole lot of people who assist either side with more data or faster service or better measurement. Let’s zoom in on three of them — just from the As — to give you an idea of the kinds of outfits we’re talking about.
Let’s look at three companies from our list of As. Adnetik is a standard targeting company that uses real-time bidding. They can offer targeted ads based on how users act (behavioral), who they are (demographic), where they live (geographic), and who they seem like online (lookalike), as well as something they call “social proximity.” They also give advertisers the ability to choose the types of sites on which their ads will run based on “parameters like publisher brand equity, contextual relevance to the advertiser, brand safety, level of ad clutter and content quality.”
It’s worth noting how different this practice is from traditional advertising. The social contract between advertisers and publications used to be that publications gathered particular types of people into something called an audience, then advertisers purchased ads in that publication to reach that audience. There was an art to it, and some publications had cachet while others didn’t. Online advertising upends all that: Now you can buy the audience without the publication. You want an Atlantic reader? Great! Some ad network can sell you someone who has been to The Atlantic but is now reading about hand lotion at KnowYourHandLotions.com. And they’ll sell you that set of eyeballs for a fifth of the price. You can bid in real-time on a set of those eyeballs across millions of sites without ever talking to an advertising salesperson. (Of course, such a tradeoff has costs, which we’ll see soon.)
Adnetik also offers a service called “retargeting” that another A-company, AdRoll, specializes in. Here’s how it works. Let’s say you’re an online shoe merchant. Someone comes to your store but doesn’t purchase anything. While they’re there, you drop a cookie on them. Thereafter you can target ads to them, knowing that they’re at least mildly interested. Even better, you can drop cookies on everyone who comes to look at shoes and then watch to see who comes back to buy. Those people become your training data, and soon you’re only “retargeting” those people with a data profile that indicates that they’re likely to purchase something from you eventually. It’s slick, especially if people don’t notice that the pairs of shoes they found the willpower not to purchase just happen to be showing up on their favorite gardening sites.
There are many powerful things you can do once you’ve got data on a user, so the big worries for online advertisers shift to the inventory itself. Purchasing a page in a magazine is a process through which advertisers have significant control; but these types of online ads could conceivably run anywhere. After all, many ad networks need all the inventory they can get, so they sign up all kinds of content providers. And that’s where our third company comes into play.
AdExpose, now a comScore company, watches where and how ads are run to determine if their purchasers got their money’s worth. “Up to 80% of interactive ads are sold and resold through third parties,” they put it on their website. “This daisychaining brings down the value of online ads and advertisers don’t always know where their ads have run.” To solve that problem, AdExpose claims to provide independent verification of an ad’s placement.
All three companies want to know as much about me and what’s on my screen as they possibly can, although they have different reasons for their interest. None of them seem like evil companies, nor are they singular companies. Like much of this industry, they seem to believe in what they’re doing. They deliver more relevant advertising to consumers and that makes more money for companies. They are simply tools to improve the grip strength of the invisible hand.
And yet, the revelation that 105 different outfits were collecting and presumably selling data about me on the Internet gives me pause. It’s not just Google or Facebook or Yahoo. There are literally dozens and dozens of these companies and the average user has no idea what they do or how they work. We just know that for some reason, at one point or another, an organization dropped a cookie on us and have created a file on some server, steadily accumulating clicks and habits that will eventually be mined and marketed.
The online advertising industry argues that technology is changing so rapidly that regulation is not the answer to my queasiness about all that data going off to who-knows-where. The problem, however, is that the industry’s version of self-regulation is not one that most people would expect or agree with, as I found out myself.
After running Collusion for a few days, I wanted to see if there was an easy method to stop data collection. Naively, I went to the self-regulatory site run by the Network Advertising Initiative and completed their “Opt Out” form. I did so for the dozens of companies listed and I would say that it was a simple and nominally effective process. That said, I wasn’t sure if data would stop being collected on me or not. The site itself does not say that data collection will stop, but it’s also not clear that data collection will continue. In fact, the overview of NAI’s principles freely mixes talk about how the organization’s code “limits the types of data that member companies can use” with information about the opt-out process.
After opting out, I went back to Collusion to see if companies were still tracking me. I found that many, many companies appeared to be logging data for me. According to Mozilla, the current version of Collusion does not allow me to see precisely what companies are still tracking, but Stanford researchers using Collusion found that at least some companies continue to collect data. All that I had “opted out” of was receiving targeted ads, not data collection. There is no way, through the companies’ own self-regulatory apparatus, to stop being tracked online. None.
After those Stanford researchers posted their results to a university blog, they received a sharp response from the NAI’s then-chief, Chuck Curran.
In essence, Curran argued that users do not have the right to *not* be tracked. “We’ve long recognized that consumers should be provided a choice about whether data about their likely interests can be used to make their ads more relevant,” he wrote. “But the NAI code also recognizes that companies sometimes need to continue to collect data for operational reasons that are separate from ad targeting based on a user’s online behavior.”
Companies “need to continue to collect data,” but that contrasts directly with users desire “not to be tracked.” The only right that online advertisers are willing to give users is the ability not to have ads served to them based on their web histories. Curran himself admits this: “There is a vital distinction between limiting the use of online data for ad targeting, and banning data collection outright.”
But based on the scant survey and anecdotal data that we have available, when users opt out preventing data collection is *precisely* what they are after.
In preliminary results from a survey conducted last year, Aleecia McDonald, a fellow at Stanford Center for Internet and Society, found that users expected a lot more from the current set of tools than those tools deliver. The largest percentage of her survey group (34 percent) who looked at the NAI’s opt-out page thought that it was “a website that lets you tell companies not to collect data about you.” For browser-based “Do Not Track” tools, a full 61 percent of respondents expected that if they clicked such a button, no data would be collected about them.
Do Not Track tools have become a major point of contention. The idea is that if you enable one in your browser, when you arrive at The New York Times, you send a herald out ahead of you that says, “Do not collect data about me.” Members of the NAI have agreed, in principle, to follow the DNT provisions, but now the debate has shifted to the details.
There is a fascinating scrum over what “Do Not Track” tools should do and what orders websites will have to respect from users. The Digital Advertising Alliance (of which the NAI is a part), the Federal Trade Commission, W3C, the Internet Advertising Bureau (also part of the DAA), and privacy researchers at academic institutions are all involved. In November, the DAA put out a new set of principles that contain some good ideas like the prohibition of “collection, use or transfer of Internet surfing data across Websites for determination of a consumer’s eligibility for employment, credit standing, healthcare treatment and insurance.”
This week, the White House seemed to side with privacy advocates who want to limit collection, not just uses. Its Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights pushes companies to allow users to “exercise control over what personal data companies collect from them and how they use it.” The DAA heralded its own participation in the White House process, though even it noted this is the beginning of a long journey.
There has been a clear and real philosophical difference between the advertisers and regulators representing web users. On the one hand, as Stanford privacy researcher Jonathan Mayer put it, “Many stakeholders on online privacy, including U.S. and EU regulators, have repeatedly emphasized that effective consumer control necessitates restrictions on the collection of information, not just prohibitions on specific uses of information.” But advertisers want to keep collecting as much data as they can as long as they promise to not to use it to target advertising. That’s why the NAI opt-out program works like it does.
Let’s not linger too long on the technical implementation here: there may be some topics around which compromises can be found. Some definition of “Do Not Track” that suits industry and privacy people may be crafted. Various issues related to differences between first and third-party cookies may be resolved. But the battle over data collection and ad targeting goes much deeper than the tactical, technical issues that dominate the discussion.
Let’s assume good faith on behalf of advertising companies and confront the core issue head on: Should users be able to stop data collection, even if companies aren’t doing anything “bad” with it? Should that be a right as the White House contends, and more importantly, why?
Companies’ ability to track people online has significantly outpaced the cultural norms and expectations of privacy. This is not because online companies are worse than their offline counterparts, but rather because what they can do is so, so different. We don’t have a language for talking about how these companies function or how our society should deal with them.
The word you hear over and over and over is that targeted ads can be “creepy.” It even crops up in the academic literature, despite its vague meaning in this context. My intuition is that we use the word “creepy” precisely because it is an indeterminate word. It connotes that tingling-back-of-the-neck feeling, but not necessarily more than that. The creepy feeling is a sign to pay attention to a possibly harmful phenomenon. But we can’t sort our feelings into categories — dangerous or harmless — because we don’t actually know what’s going to happen with all the data that’s being collected.
Not only are there more than 100 companies that are collecting data on us, making it practically impossible to sort good from bad, but there are key unresolved issues about how we relate to our digital selves and the machines through which they are expressed.
At the heart of the problem is that we increasingly live two lives: a physical one in which your name, social security number, passport number, and driver’s license are your main identity markers, and one digital, in which you have dozens of identity markers, which are known to you and me as cookies. These markers allow data gatherers to keep tabs on you without your name. Those cookie numbers, which are known only to the entities that assigned them to you, are persistent markers of who you are, but they remain unattached to your physical identity through your name. There is a (thin) wall between the self that buys health insurance and the self that searches for health-related information online.
For real-time advertising bidding, in which audiences are being served ads that were purchased milliseconds *after* users arrive at a webpage, ad services “match cookies,” so that both sides know who a user is. While that information may not be stored by both companies, i.e. it’s not added to a user’s persistent file, it means that the walls between online data selves are falling away quickly. Everyone can know who you are, even if they call you by a different number.
Furthermore, many companies are just out there collecting data to sell to other companies. Anyone can combine multiple databases together into a fully fleshed out digital portrait. As a Wall Street Journal investigation put it, data companies are “transforming the Internet into a place where people are becoming anonymous in name only.” Joe Turow, who recently published a book on online privacy, had even stronger words.
If a company can follow your behavior in the digital environment — an environment that potentially includes your mobile phone and television set — its claim that you are “anonymous” is meaningless. That is particularly true when firms intermittently add off-line information such as shopping patterns and the value of your house to their online data and then simply strip the name and address to make it “anonymous.” It matters little if your name is John Smith, Yesh Mispar, or 3211466. The persistence of information about you will lead firms to act based on what they know, share, and care about you, whether you know it is happening or not.
Militating against this collapse of privacy is a protection embedded in the very nature of the online advertising system. No person could ever actually look over the world’s web tracks. It would be too expensive and even if you had all the human laborers in the world, they couldn’t do the math fast enough to constantly recalculate web surfers’ value to advertisers. So, machines are the ones that do all of the work.
When new technologies come up against our expectations of privacy, I think it’s helpful to make a real-world analogy. But we just do not have an adequate understanding of anonymity in a world where machines can parse all of our behavior without human oversight. Most obviously, with the machine, you have more privacy than if a person were watching your clickstreams, picking up collateral knowledge. A human could easily apply analytical reasoning skills to figure out who you were. And any human could use this data for unauthorized purposes. With our data-driven advertising world, we are relying on machines’ current dumbness and inability to “know too much.”
This is a double-edged sword. The current levels of machine intelligence insulate us from privacy catastrophe, so we let data be collected about us. But we know that this data is not going away and yet machine intelligence is growing rapidly. The results of this process are ineluctable. Left to their own devices, ad tracking firms will eventually be able to connect your various data selves. And then they will break down the name wall, if they are allowed to.
Your visit to this story probably generated data for 13 companies through our website. The great downside to this beautiful, free web that we have is that you have to sell your digital self in order to access it. If you’d like to stop data collection, take a look at Do Not Track Plus. It goes beyond Collusion and browser based controls in blocking data collection outright.
But I am ultimately unclear what I think about using these tools. Rhetorically, they imply that there will be technological solutions to these data collection problems. Undoubtedly, tech elites will use them. The problem is the vast majority of Internet users will never know what’s churning beneath their browsers. And the advertising lobby is explicitly opposed to setting browser defaults for higher levels of “Do Not Track” privacy. There will be nothing to protect them from unwittingly giving away vast amounts of data about who they are.
On the other hand, these are the tools that allow websites to eke out a tiny bit more money than they otherwise would. I am all too aware of how difficult it is for media businesses to survive in this new environment. Sure, we could all throw up paywalls and try to make a lot more money from a lot fewer readers. But that would destroy what makes the web the unique resource in human history that it is. I want to keep the Internet healthy, which really does mean keeping money flowing from advertising.
I wish there were more obvious villains in this story. The saving grace may end up being that as companies go to more obtrusive and higher production value ads, targeting may become ineffective. Avi Goldfarb of Rotman School of Management and Catherine Tucker of MIT’s Sloan School found last year that the big, obtrusive ads that marketers love do not work better with targeting, but worse.
“Ads that match both website content are obtrusive do worse at increasing purchase intent than ads that do only one or the other,” they wrote in a 2011 Marketing Science journal paper. “This failure appears to be related to privacy concerns: the negative effect of combining targeting with obtrusiveness is strongest for people who refuse to give their income and for categories where privacy matters most.”
Perhaps there are natural limits to what data targeting can do for advertisers and when we look back in 10 years at why data collection practices changed, it will not be because of regulation or self-regulation or a user uprising. No, it will be because the best ads could not be targeted. It will be because the whole idea did not work and the best minds of the next generation will turn their attention to something else.
March 5, 2012
TorrentFreak: March 3, 2012
The file-sharing landscape is slowly adjusting in response to the continued push for more anti-piracy tools, the final Pirate Bay verdict, and the raids and arrests in the Megaupload case. Faced with uncertainty and drastic changes at file-sharing sites, many users are searching for secure, private and uncensored file-sharing clients. Despite the image its name suggests, RetroShare is one such future-proof client.
The avalanche of negative file-sharing news over the past weeks hasn’t gone unnoticed to users and site operators.
From SOPA to Megaupload, there is a growing uncertainly about the future of sharing.
While many BitTorrent sites and cyberlockers continue to operate as usual, there is a growing group of users who are expanding their horizons to see what other means of sharing are available if the worst case scenario becomes reality.
Anonymous, decentralized and uncensored are the key and most sought-after features. For some this means signing up with a VPN to make their BitTorrent sharing more private, but new clients are also generating interest.
Earlier this month we wrote about Tribler, a decentralized BitTorrent client that makes torrent sites obsolete. We’ve covered Tribler for more than half a decade, but it was only after our most recent post that it really took off with more than a hundred thousand downloads in a few days.
But there are more file-sharing tools that are specifically built to withstand outside attacks. Some even add anonymity into the mix. RetroShare is such a private and uncensored file-sharing client, and the developers have also noticed a significant boom in users recently.
The RetroShare network allows people to create a private and encrypted file-sharing network. Users add friends by exchanging PGP certificates with people they trust. All the communication is encrypted using OpenSSL and files that are downloaded from strangers always go through a trusted friend.
In other words, it’s a true Darknet and virtually impossible to monitor by outsiders.
RetroShare founder DrBob told us that while the software has been around since 2006, all of a sudden there’s been a surge in downloads. “The interest in RetroShare has massively shot up over the last two months,” he said.
“In January our downloads tripled when interest in SOPA was at its peak. It more than doubled again in February, when cyberlockers disabled sharing or shut down entirely. At the moment we are getting 10 times more downloads than in December 2011.”
RetroShare’s downloads at Sourceforge
RetroShare’s founder believes that there is an increased need for security, privacy and freedom among file-sharers, features that are at the core of his application.
“RetroShare is about creating a private space on the Internet. A social collaboration network where you can share anything you want. A space that is free from the prying eyes of governments, corporations and advertisers. This is vitally important as our freedom on the Internet is under increasing threat,” DrBob told TorrentFreak.
“RetroShare is free from censorship: like Facebook banning ‘obscene’ breast-feeding photographs. A network that allows you to use any pseudonym, without insisting on knowing your real name. A network where you will not face the threat of jail, or being banned from entry into a country for an innocent tweet.”
It’s impossible to accurately predict what file-sharing will look like 5 years from now. But, a safe assumption is that anonymity will play a more central role than it ever has.
Recent crackdowns have made operators of central file-sharing sites and services more cautious of copyright infringement. Some even went as far as shutting down voluntarily, like BTjunkie.
In the long run this might drive more casual downloaders to legitimate alternatives, if these are available. Those who keep on sharing could move to smaller communities, darknets, and anonymous connections.
[CJ Hinke of FACT comments: Damn! Wrong folder! I hate it when that happens! Precisely what is wrong about Internet censorship—does more harm than good.]
TorrentFreak: March 2, 2012
A “human error” carried out by the police resulted in thousands of websites being completely blocked at the DNS level yesterday. Danish visitors to around 8,000 sites including Google and Facebook were informed that the sites were being blocked by the country’s High Tech Crime Unit due to them offering child pornography, a situation which persisted for several hours.
Censorship online is an emotive issue.
Some people believe that all information should be free and as adults it should be our right to be able to make our own choices in deciding what to view. In other countries that is not an option since oppressive regimes take control in order to maintain their power base.
In the West, online censorship takes different forms. In addition to censorship aimed at tackling serious criminality, increasingly entertainment companies are pushing to have sites blocked to protect their corporate interests. Opponents argue that a free and open Internet overrides the need to protect a rightsholder every time, and that mechanisms such as DNS blockades could break the Internet.
In Denmark yesterday the Internet didn’t exactly collapse, but for thousands of businesses it was hardly service as usual.
For several hours, customers of ISP Siminn (although it could have easily been the whole country) were denied access to thousands of websites including Google and Facebook. When attempting to view any of the blocked pages visitors were given a worrying message relating to the most emotive blocking reason of all – the protection of children.
“The National High Tech Crime Center of the Danish National Police [NITEC], who assist in investigations into crime on the internet, has informed Siminn Denmark A/S, that the internet page which your browser has tried to get in contact with may contain material which could be regarded as child pornography,” the message began.
“Upon the request of The National High Tech Crime Center of the Danish National Police, Siminn Denmark A/S has blocked the access to the internet page.”
NITEC is responsible for maintaining a list of sites which they want to be made unavailable to Danish citizens. Each day the country’s Internet service providers retrieve the list and then apply DNS blockades across their infrastructure. Yesterday, however, someone made a huge mistake.
According to NITEC chief Johnny Lundberg, it began when an employee at the police center decided to move from his own computer to that of a colleague.
“He sat down and was about to make an investigation, and in doing so he placed a list of legitimate sites in the wrong folder,” Lundberg explained. “Before becoming aware of the error, two ISPs retrieved the list of sites.”
That list contained 8,000 sites.
After becoming aware of the problem NITEC corrected the error but it took at least 3 hours for customers of the ISPs to regain access to the sites in question. Fortunately no more ISPs adopted the erroneous lists in the meantime, but that was by sheer luck.
Lundberg said that his organization was sorry for the mistake and has now adopted a new system whereby blocked sites have to now be approved by two employees instead of one, although why that was not the case already for such a serious process is up for debate.
The other question is how at the flick of a switch do 8,000 sites suddenly get added to a blacklist – for whatever reason – without any kind of oversight. Denmark’s IT-Political Association is critical and has called for ISPs to cease cooperation with the voluntary scheme which operates without any kind of judicial review.
“Today’s story shows that the police are not able to secure against manual errors that could escalate into something that actually works as a ‘kill switch’ for the Internet,” the group said in a statement.
Govt plans law to restrain Constitution drafters from amending lèse majesté provisions…just in case-Bangkok Post
March 5, 2012
[FACT comments: The present govt wants a new Constitution. But now it’s making rules, preconditions. What we really need is an irrevocable bill of rights, guaranteeing everyone’s human rights and civil liberties. All the rest means nothing.]
Committee: Monarchy won’t be touched
Bangkok Post: March 2, 2012
The 45-member joint parliamentary committee scrutinising charter amendment bills has agreed to write an article to prevent a constitution drafting assembly (CDA) from amending Chapters 1 and 2 of the 2007 constitution regarding the state and the monarchy, committee chairman Samart Kaewmeechai said on Friday.
Mr Samart, a Pheu Thai MP for Chiang Rai, was speaking today after the scrutiny committee’s second meeting, called to lay down a rough framework for amendments.
The committee will meet again on March 8 to consider which sections in the constitution should be amended, he said.
All three bills being scrutinsed, one filed by the government and the two others by the Pheu Thai and Chartthaipattana parties, seek the amendment of only Section 291 to make way for the establishment of a CDA to rewrite the constitution.
The scrutiny committee today agreed that an article would be written into the final amendment bill to make it clear that the CDA would not amend Chapters 1 and 2 of the 2007 constitution regarding the state and the monarchy, so that those who worried about this matter would feel relieved and satisfied, he said.
Concerning independent agencies, the committee agreed basically that the CDA should work in a direction to make sure that those agencies perform their duties straightforwardly without interference by any political or other groups.
The CDA would be given a guideline not to dissolve any of the existing independent agencies, Mr Samart said.
On the number of CDA members, Mr Samart said the committee initially adhered to the government’s bill. which provides for a a 99-member CDA.
However, the issue could be discussed by MPs and senators in the committee holding different opinions over the composition of the CDA.
On the qualifications of CDA members, the committee initially agreed that a CDA member must be 35 years of age or more, have been born in the province they represent, or lived there for at least five years, or have served as a government official in that province for at least five years, and must not be a person banned from office by the constitution.
Concerning education, the government’s draft wants a CDA member to hold at least a bachelor’s degree, but the Pheu Thai and Chartthaipattana drafts do not include this provision.
This matter will be further discussed by the scrutiny committee, he said.
March 5, 2012
[FACT comments: This comes as so-what news. Thai govt has multiple forms of martial law at its instant disposal.]
Emergency decree should be repealed: panel
The Nation: March 2, 2012
A legislative panel has called for the repeal of the emergency decree on the grounds that provisions were not designed to handle street protests.
The panel, appointed by the House speaker and headed by former lawmaker Prasob Busarakham, on Friday submitted its report on the enforcement of the emergency decree.
Prasob said a key finding was the decree had been improperly invoked to quell street protests even though it was not designed for keeping peace at political rallies.
He said the decree should be upgraded into an act of Parliament in order to allow a full debate on how to update the emergency provisions to keep up with change in the security situation.
In regard to the street protests, he said a new agency should be formed specialising on crowd control.
“The deployment of soldiers to disperse the crowd was improper leading to fatal losses,” he said.
He also argued that the emergency decree, if repealed, would not impact on the operations to quell violence in the South because the situation could be handled via the Internal Security Act.